I was invited to participate on a panel of industry leaders at Millward Brown's Marketing Forward conferece in Miami earlier this week. As always, it was energizing to connect with colleagues who are as passionate about insight and ideas as I am. It was also nice to be welcomed by people who are as geeky (if not more geeky) than I am about rigor.
A few highlights:
- Allen P. Adamson, managing director at Landor (and author of this cool blog) talked about his new book Brand Simple, and offered what I think is a pretty relevant definition of the often-misinterpreted word branding: it's 2 pieces, brand + ing, with brand being the meaning part, and "ing" being the signalling part. I think this idea of branding is powerful because it separates what the brand means (its essence, etc.) from the efforts to bring the brand to the audience. Brands can do well (or be challenged) on either front (meaning or signalling), or perhaps both - but if you don't pick it apart, you might be attacking the wrong problem. I find it particularly helpful to think about these 2 factors when taking up a brand problem for the first time.
- Steve Hardwick, who's running Grey NY (he formerly led Strawberry Frog), reminded us that we're humans first, and consumers second (one of my personal mantras) - so always think about basic human stuff before getting all bogged down in the markteting gobbledygook. I'm not crazy about his term "tradigital" which describes the coming integration of traditional and digital (Steve admitted Stuart Elliott didn't like it much either), but I was sympathetic to his point about the constant troll for talent that thrives on storytelling, thinking in ideas not ads. Particularly loved his definition of creativity: original thinking that adds value.
- Arianna Huffington, creator of the Huffington Post - what a firecracker, everything you've heard about her is true, and more. Really enjoyed hearing her perspective on the colliding worlds of old and new media. She thinks selecting from between the 2 is an impossibility - kind of like picking between Ginger and Maryann (for you Gilligan's Island fans in the audience). With characteristic wit, Huffington says why choose, it's the new millenium, it's time for a 3-way - because a "hybrid" media is coming soon. I particularly enjoyed her diagnosis of the mental "ailments" facing each medium: "mainstream" media has ADD - they flit from story to story never covering anything in great detail and giving a story up once a new shiny object appears (her question about what Elian Gonzalez is doing today - nobody knows! - made the point nicely). But new media has OCD - grabbing a story and not letting go, even if it's lost its relevance. Huffington sees a new hybrid emerging, which combines the best of old media (fairness, accuracy, fact checking) with the best of the new (community, speed, innovation). Let's hope she's right!
With me on the industry leads panel were Julie Roehm (former Wal-Mart and Chrysler marketing whiz), Drew Ianni (chair of ad:tech), and Cleve Langton, DDD's global new biz guru (we were ably moderated by Millward Brown's charming global CEO Eileen Campbell).
When asked what I'm following in marketing with the greatest interest I covered 2 things (I was asked to focus on the media perspective):
- Measurement & accountability. At Digitas we talk a lot about "liquid media" - how today consumers constantly move between channels and devices, seeing mesages, having experiences, sharing their point of view with others. The trick is, how can a marketer accurately pinpoint the impact each channel, execution and interaction is having on a consumer whose journey and brand interactions are so fluid? Rapidly evolving technologies that provide addressability are clearly part of the puzzle. But in the meantime, how can the rigor of measurement keep pace with the increasingly "liquid" nature of media? This is true for all channels, but particularly interesting around WOM (which I consider a medium even thought it's usually not "paid") - it was very interesting to hear last week's news about IPG's alliance with Bzz Agent, who provides a fairly standardized approach to delivering and measuring WOM. The reason we care about measurement is, our clients are very large businesses that require scale - nice efforts are nice, but don't necessarily move the business forward. You need to be certain that a creative marketing idea if achieving the scale it needs.
- Search. We're also paying very close attention to search, specifically, how the industry can take search to the next level. Search is where virtually every online interaction begins, so it has a major impact on the way people relate to the web. We did some research with teens recently and they don't bother remembering the URLs of sites they visit, they just look it up on Google whenever they need it. We've seen interesting advances in search - think about what Google has done with local search - and obviously it will remain a major element in the media mix - but I'm hoping it will be able to provide additional value to both marketers and consumers - including branding and functionality. For example, we're starting to see efforts to measure the branding impact of search. I think consumers will appreciate a whole new level of functionality - providing branding experiences, but also the ability to sample and buy brands without having to visit product pages.
I couldn't resist giving a plug to HoneyShed as something I'm watching closely - it's a mesmerizing mix of entertainment, social networking and e-commerce that I think has the potential to revolutionize how people shop online (check it out!).
The panel was spirited and collegial, and the audience seemed to enjoy it.